The International Stress Management AssociationUK

Background and History of ISMAUK

ISMAUK has been promoting sound knowledge in the prevention and reduction of human stress and best practice in the field of stress management, both nationally and internationally, for 50 years in 2024. You can read the story of how we arrived where we are today on this page. 


Beginnings in the USA

The International Stress Management Association (ISMAUK) was founded in 1974 as the American Association for the Advancement of Tension Control (AAATC). Most members came from the education and health professions, with a preponderance of physicians, psychotherapists, and professors of health and physical education. 

Change of Name

The first international conference of the Association was held in London very successfully in 1979. It was decided at the conference that the name of the Association should be changed to the International Stress and Tension Control Society (ISTCS), reflecting a common interest in stress management. However, it took until 1981 for this change to be achieved. 

Renaming as ISMA

A second conference was held at the University of Sussex in 1983, attended by delegates from 22 countries. This conference sowed the seeds for further development. In 1984, the UK and French branches were formed. A third conference, held in Edinburgh in 1988, led to the founding of further international branches. In 1989, at a meeting held in Calais, the directors decided that the organisation should be renamed the International Stress Management Association (ISMA). The main aim of the Association, as the world’s major organisation of stress management professionals, was to bring together practitioners in stress research and stress management and to provide mutual support and introductions. 

With branches in eight countries and members in many other countries, ISMAUK had achieved a truly global reach, which still continues to the present day. For details of our International Branches and representatives visit

ISMA’s Purpose Then and Now

Since its establishment 50 years ago in 1974, ISMAUK's purpose has remained constant. It is in three parts:
•    Raise the profile of stress-related issues, both in the home and workplace
•    Combat the stigma often associated with personal stress
•    Change attitudes towards the management of stress in the world of work

The Present Day

ISMAUK is the leading professional body for workplace and personal stress management, wellbeing and performance.  As a registered charity, ISMAUK exists to promote sound knowledge and best practice in stress management, both nationally and internationally.

Through our register of professional practitioners and consultants, we offer support in the form of advisory work with individuals, and also provide coaching and training courses within the workplace, whether in the public or private sector, in commerce as well as in industry.

Stress Awareness Day and 
International Stress Awareness Week

Our goal is to raise awareness of stress around the world and improve the ways in which stress is managed in the workplace and in our personal lives. As part of this remit, ISMAUK are the originators of two key events in the year – Stress Awareness Day, founded in 1998, and International Stress Awareness Week, founded in 2018. Stress Awareness Day is held at the mid-point of International Stress Awareness Week. It was the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Stress Awareness Day in 2023. An in-person conference used to be held to mark this special week, but for the past few years a Global Online Stress Summit has been held successfully, attracting audiences of organisers and practitioners in stress management, business leaders, managers and employees, HR managers, consultants and trainers.

Other events in support of International Stress Awareness Week are held by ISMA International branches and representatives around the world.

50th Anniversary 2024

In 2024 ISMA celebrates its 50th Anniversary as the leading professional body for workplace and personal stress management, wellbeing and performance. In addition to our normal calendar of activities, which include International Stress Awareness Week and Stress Awareness Day, the highpoints of the stress management year, we are planning a range of other activities and events which will involve as many people and partner organisations as possible, so that we can mark this special year in the most appropriate and effective way.

The most ambitious of these is the launch of ISMAUK’s inaugural Stress Management Awards, which aim to recognise businesses and organisations that have made significant contributions to enhancing employee mental health and reducing workplace stress. For more details about these Awards and instructions on how to enter any of the three categories, please refer to the provided link here.

We look forward to continuing to promote sound knowledge in the prevention and reduction of human stress and best practice in the field of stress management, both nationally and internationally, for the next 50 years.

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“I am delighted to support ISMAUK and their noble mission to reduce stress, build resilience and improve wellbeing, both in the workplace and in society”

Stephen Fry, Actor, Writer and Presenter
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